CPSC Votes to Require Third-party Testing for Children's Products
Late last week, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) passed a series of regulations finalizing the requirements for testing children's products. The CPSC voted 3-2 to require independent, third-party product testing for manufacturers, importers and private labelers of products "designed or intended primarily for children 12 years of age or younger."
The "Final Rule on Testing and Labeling Pertaining to Certification" will require firms to test and certify that the specified products comply with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) and that this testing must be provided by a third party auditor. Further, the rule specifies that any time there is a change in the product design, manufacturing process or component parts, firms must have the entire product re-tested and re-certified. Further, affected companies will be required to keep records of all testing and certification of children's products. These requirements will go into effect 15 months after they are published in the Federal Register.
A second rule, "Conditions and Requirements for Relying on Component Part Testing or Certification, or Another Party's Finished Product Testing or Certification, to Meeting Testing and Certification Requirements," also passed by a 3-2 vote on Thursday. This provision would allow manufacturers, importers and private labelers to utilize testing and compliance materials from component manufacturers in order to meet the CPSC's testing requirements, provided that the component manufacturers' testing adheres to the aforementioned regulations.
As part of the ruling, compliant children's products will be allowed to bear the label "Meets CPSC Safety Requirements." This label is voluntary and not be required for compliance.
American businesses are already responsible for initial testing of certain products intended for children, such as those that could have lead in the paint or that contain small parts, but the new rules both expand the testing and outline the specifications for certification. Further, "all domestic manufacturers, importers and private labelers of children's products will be required to test the products periodically to ensure continued compliance with federal safety standards," the CPSC said in a statement.
CPSC commissioner Nancy Nord, who voted against both regulations, issued a six-page press release lambasting the rulings. Describing them as "overreaching" and "bad policymaking," Nord stated the regulations would increase costs to American businesses without substantially increasing consumer safety. In a statement, she said, "the rule 'will have a significant impact on all firms' making children's products and, unfortunately, American families should expect to bear the brunt of this rule's impact."
"Not only will the Testing Rule impose substantial costs on consumers, it may slow or stop the pace of innovation in the design and manufacturing of children's products. As our staff explained, impacted companies may 'forgo or delay implementing improvement to products' design or manufacturing processes in order to avoid the costs of third party testing.' Forgone innovation could even include ways to make products safer. So, in order to test to today's safety standards, we may force companies to put off or abandon tomorrow's safety improvements," Nord continued.
In addition to the new regulations, which were introduced to "create a new safety framework designed to ensure the safety of children's products" according to CPSC chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum, the commission voted 5-0 on two other rulings intended to aid affected businesses. The first concerns products required for periodic compliance testing, and states that firms are allowed to submit items known to be "representative samples," rather than "random samples." The second vote approved a notice in the Federal Register to seek public comment on costs associated with the new third party testing.
Thursday's decisions represent the final action by commissioner Thomas H. Moore, who announced his departure from the CPSC on the same day. Despite voting in favor of both 3-2 rulings, in his farewell statement he warned that overregulation was not the solution to all product safety issues. "Experience has taught me that reasoned commission action should reflect a pragmatic approach to resolving safety problems and there should be recognition that regulation is only one of many options that can be employed to address safety issues," he said. "I think that consumers should be well informed about the products they purchase and they should take reasonable care in using them."